PR: AIDS, LGBT Advocates Demand Expansion of Life-Saving Benefits to End AIDS in New York

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jennifer Flynn, (917) 517-5202 or jennifer@vocal-ny.org

AIDS, LGBT ADVOCATES DEMAND EXPANSION OF LIFE-SAVING BENEFITS TO END AIDS IN NEW YORK

Statewide campaign to update eligibility requirements for low-income HIV+ New Yorkers is first proactive expansion of welfare in a decade;

Necessary component to achieve Governor Cuomo’s Plan to End AIDS

New York, NY: A broad coalition of leading HIV/AIDS and LGBT organizations, along with elected officials, called for a major, statewide expansion of welfare benefits for low-income, HIV+ individuals. The expanded benefits, which include enhanced housing, nutrition, and transportation support, are critical to promoting health and stopping the spread of HIV.

Led by Council Member Corey Johnson, the only openly HIV+ elected official in the state, and State Senator Brad Hoylman, a leader on LGBT issues and champion of the successful “30% rent cap” AIDS housing bill, the coalition pointed to a wealth of scientific data showing homelessness and poverty as the primary driver of the AIDS epidemic. By expanding life-saving benefits, HIV+ people will be in a better position to take their medication, attend regular doctor visits, and stay “virally suppressed”, meaning healthy and virtually unable to transmit the virus.

The campaign is pushing to create a single point of access for all poor, HIV+ New Yorkers to receive enhanced rental assistance, increased food and transportation allowances and seamless support services. Currently, these benefits are only available to NYC residents with an “AIDS” diagnosis according to the NYS AIDS Institute. However, this medically outdated eligibility requirement leaves out thousands of poor, HIV+ New Yorkers who have not yet developed AIDS, but still need support before their health deteriorates further, as well as those living outside of New York City.

A unique coalition of over 40 LGBT, youth, homeless and AIDS advocacy organizations have signed on to a letter to Governor Cuomo in support of the campaign – calling particular attention to the disproportionate number of HIV+ LGBT youth that would directly benefit from the expanded benefits.

“The science is way ahead of us. We know that getting people into stable housing is one of the best ways to keep people healthy and to outpace new infections. If New York State is serious about ending AIDS we must invest in ending the homelessness crisis among poor HIV+ New Yorkers, especially LGBT youth,” said Jason Walker, HIV/AIDS Organizer, VOCAL-NY.

“Secure affordable housing, along with transportation and food security, is absolutely fundamental to ending the AIDS epidemic in New York. The research is clear that housing is key to treatment adherence and viral suppression,” said Charles King, President and CEO of Housing Works and the Co-Chair of the Governor’s End AIDS Task Force.

In June, Governor Cuomo announced his commitment to end AIDS in New York State. The first meeting of his End AIDS Task Force will take place on October 14th. Expanding welfare benefits to all poor, HIV+ New Yorkers is one proposal that the Task Force is expected to review.

“I commend Governor Cuomo for his bold plan to end the AIDS epidemic in New York State by 2020 and assembling of an expert task force to map the way. As of December 2012 nearly 80,000 New Yorkers were living with AIDS and another 52,000 were HIV-positive. One way we can help stem this public health crisis is to ensure that all low-income New Yorkers with AIDS or HIV have stable housing and other support services to help keep them healthy and reduce their risk of transmission,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman

Part of State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson’s district is just outside of New York City. Her constituents, just a few miles north of the Bronx border, are denied access to enhanced rental assistance and nutrition and transportation allowance.

“All the studies that we have seen since the early 80s have shown us that except for medical protocols, good nutrition and stable housing are the most significant ingredients that contribute to the health and wellness for persons with HIV and AIDS. Therefore, it is long since time that we were providing adequate number of units of housing to this population,” said State Senator Hassell-Thompson.

“We stand alongside our partners and call on New York to go one step further in the fight to end the AIDS epidemic by providing additional life-saving resources that meet the most basic needs of all New Yorkers living with HIV,” said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Nathan M. Schaefer. “By offering some assistance we can help keep people cared for, including LGBT New Yorkers who are disproportionately impacted, a hugely important factor in curbing the virus and towards our shared goal of ending the epidemic by 2020.”

“When LGBT youths are left homeless in the streets without shelter, because so many survive through survival sex, they face enormous risk of being infected with, and transmitting, HIV. When we fail to provide them with safe, stable shelter and housing, we consent to their HIV infections,” said Carl Siciliano, Executive Director, Ali Forney Center.

Elected officials in attendance were:

  • New York City Public Advocate Leticia James
  • New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer
  • State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson
  • State Senator Brad Hoylman
  • NYS Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried
  • NYC Council Health Committee Chair Corey Johnson
  • NYC Council General Welfare Committee Chair Stephen Levin

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